Pastors should know how to answer a person’s request to inspect church records. Generally, there is no inherent right to inspect church records. However, such a right can be granted in some legal document such as a church’s bylaws or state nonprofit corporation law.
Here four possible justifications for a right of inspection.
1. Nonprofit Corporation Law
Some state nonprofit corporation laws give members of an incorporated church the right to inspect corporate records for any proper purpose at any reasonable time. Other state nonprofit corporation laws give members broad authority to inspect corporate records, but specify that “the articles or bylaws of a religious corporation may limit or abolish the right of a member . . . to inspect and copy any corporate records.”
A right of inspection, however, generally applies only to members. Persons who are not members of a church ...